Radioactive Man – Waits & Measures
"Really what I think it is, is like a music that is the intellect at the body at the same time… and that's rare, very rare. It's synthesised a lot of different music forms into one and it's like this kind of meeting point. You don't have to know it, you don't have to know its history… you just have to hear it."
"Now it was lovely music that came into my aid. There was a window open with the stereo on, and I realised right at once what to do."
"Electro is the science fiction of music…"
"Did electro predict future pop culture, did it predict what the Neptunes would go on to do, did it predict how techno, hip hop and r n' b would become?"
I love technology, I really do. I'd even consider myself a technological geek – admittedly not as much as my younger sibling but then that would be verging on the obsessive – but it just seems to really, really not like me. This piece was originally meant to be an in-depth interview and feature with Keith Tenniswood AKA Radioactive Man. It could've been beautiful; an hour and a half long chat about the life, times and musical education of one who I consider one of the pioneers of the UK Electro, Bass and ahem, nu-rockabilly scenes! Instead it resulted in a failed hard drive, a lost hard drive and what felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach upon realising the interview was lost into the digital anals of history… be that as it was we picked ourselves up and proceeded to write a review on the album. Quite pleased we were with it too… until my marvellous computer proceeded to crash on me… for about the 100th time. What follows is a hastily reimagined and rescued version of words in a previous life.
Keith Tenniswood is probably best known for his work with Andrew Weatherall as Two Lone Swordsmen. Seemingly in limbo at present – the full interview actually answered some of that story – they produced seven quite stunningly varied albums of at times tearing electro and other electronic excurions. With 'Tiny Reminders' their worlds collided to produce in R$N's ears one of the true classics of the last 10 years of recorded electronic music. Since 2007's – has it really been that long? – last TLS album Wrong Meeting II, Tenniswood has turned his attentions to the outer reaches of future thinking machine funk, electro and all that lies beyond under the moniker Radioactive Man.
It's been four years since the last RM album Growl and in that time a lot has changed in the way music is consumed and produced. The future has become now, yet Tenniswood's aural excursions still sound and feel deeply rooted in the netherworld of tomorrow's time and space. This week Tenniswood releases 'Waits & Measures', his fourth album this week which is by all accounts and purposes an incredibly varied ride of “belting electro and acid funk to stripped down electronics, heart felt chords and lush strings" as the press release so accurately puts it. Yes, this is an electro album but it's a whole bigger kettle of fish than that and having had my ears polluted with dilluted deep house for what seems like years now it's more than a welcome respite. Two tracks 'Flying Fuck' and 'Pretty Ugly' on the album were originally available on the Engine and Room Ep's which came out earlier in the year. The wonderous, ethereal, innocent melody of 'Gugs' kicks proceedings off and we're transported into a time and space where deep house never existed… thank god. I hate to draw comparisons but this is one of those long forgotten classics from Selected Ambient Works Aphex never wrote… but better. An almost flawless opener.
Stepping decidedly sideways from here on in, this is for me where the album kicks into gear with with an unexpected pounding cover the Talking Heads classic 'Crosseyed And Painless' with what I presume is Keith on vocals. It almost shouldn't work… but definitely does.
On with the stompers 'Incoming' and 'Disco Devil' – Tenniswood again on vocals covering the Scratch Perry classic or Perry's original vocals twisted out of all proportions… I can't tell.
Over into more familiar, late Two Lone Swordsmen territory with 'All Along' – Keith with some of his most soul baring lyrics, it could be Primal Scream in their more emotive of moods – & 'Engine Room'
and to the anthemic closer 'Where Am I?. Where Am I? Is this Radioactive Man and his most reflective album to date? I wouldn't like to delve too deeply into someone else's head with my cod philosophy. I'll leave it at the point where I say this is a wonderful album and one which has brightened up what can only be described as a very murky June.
Hush your mouth R$N… listen to the good stuff:
Listen to the album above, go and buy it, then watch the full Darkbeat documentary in below for an Electro education. This is music, real electronic music. Catch Radio Nasty, Tenniswood's superb collaboration with Billy Nasty at Bloc next weekend… there's rumours of a secret waltzer excursion somewhere along the way too. Need some Keith this week? Check him at 93 Ft East this weekend.
Waits & Measures is out now on Wangtrax for digital download. Roll on the vinyl!
Now about that love of technology… I now can't hear anyone talking on my phone, which is handy…